On a Rainy Day in Paris

May 12, 2016

Last week, Paris was bright and sunny — this week, the rains have come but I don’t mind so much.  Paris in the rain is hardly any less beautiful.  In fact, I think someone once said that Paris is actually the most beautiful in the rain but I can’t recall who at the moment.  I think I am so in love with Paris that even if there were thunderstorms and grey skies for eternity, I would still love it just the same.  Paris looks romantic in the sun when everyone is holding hands, and it looks romantic in the rain when everyone is holding umbrellas.

I walked along the Seine on my way to St. Michel and stopped by one of the bridges to admire the Eiffel Tower.  The rain was still falling and a few people were still scurrying past looking disgruntled or pressed for time, but I was just a girl with an umbrella, standing still and watching the rain fall on the Eiffel Tower.  Then I jumped over puddles but my feet still got wet until I arrived at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore.  I promised myself I would come to this bookstore to read at least three times before I leave and I figured a rainy day was the perfect day to make my first visit.

This bookstore is an absolute delight — each room is created like a chapter and you are to open the door in the same way you would open a book:  “a book that leads into a magical world in your imagination.”  I shook off the Parisian rain from my umbrella and immediately went up the stairs that have the words “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being” painted on them.    I forgot about my socks being wet inside of my boots because I was so happy.  A girl was playing the piano – variations on the theme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and the cozy bookstore was suddenly filled with all the whimsy and innocence of childhood afternoons.

Going into the room where you can pick a book from the shelf to read, I saw that other people were reading in there too.  There was a whole family just sitting there reading, and a couple, and two backpackers, and another girl by herself.  Nine strangers were sitting in this little room with books while the rain fell like teardrops on the window sill.  Nobody talked much but if they did, they whispered.  I think that’s nice — that there is a sacredness reserved for libraries, and reading rooms, like churches that deserve respect.

I was looking for a book to read and saw Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and my lips actually started to quiver with excitement because this book is a memoir of his time as a young writer living in Paris.  It sounds silly, even in my own head which generally contains a lot of silly thoughts, but it feels like that book was waiting there just for me.  Because Hemingway was young, and in Paris, and wanted to write books and I’m young, and in Paris, and I want to write books too.  Now I can go to the cafés he went to, and walk down the streets he walked, and see what he saw.  I rather think that book is there on that shelf for anyone who’s young, and in Paris, and wants to write books — like something right out of the room of requirement.  Some of the page corners were bent; I wonder how many people have read that book before me.  Out of all the books on the shelves, that’s the one I happened to see — and I wasn’t looking for anything in particular.  I guess sometimes you find exactly what you need without even looking.

Being in Paris is one thing, but reading about it is quite another.  And reading what Hemingway had to say about it makes me feel as though I will never be able to write another meaningful word about Paris because he has already said everything so perfectly.  Well, maybe by the end of my time in this city I’ll have found some new words.  I think Paris is a wonderful place to find words — there’s so much inspiration here.  And after all, so many of the great writers I admire found their words here.

I wasn’t able to finish the book — but I’ll be back.

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